Welcome to our blog!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

SPOTLIGHT: Interview with RENEE WITTERSTAETTER

Thanks to Richard Vasseur for getting me to talk about myself for a bit. It was fun to go down memory lane and look ahead to what the future holds. The original interview appears here:

http://forums.jazmaonline.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=4061

Best,
Renee


_________________

Renee Witterstaeter
Writer/Editor/Publisher/Art Agent
Company: Eva Ink Artist Group
Interviewed by: Richard Vasseur/Jazma VP
Posted: 23/01/2012





Rich:
What is the Eva Ink Artist Group?

Renee:
Eva Ink Artist Group is my company (www.evainkartistgroup.com) through which I act as an artist agent, talent liaison, booking agent, etc.-- for numerous wonderful creators in sequential art, cartooning, animation, gaming and advertising. In fact, we offer many different services including as mentioned, game design, product development, storyboards, voiceovers, editing, publishing, custom comics, lettering, coloring, inking, penciling, you name it! Whatever someone might need an artist to do or create.

Eva Ink Artist Group is also a part of Eva Ink Publishing which I founded around 1997 through which we produce numerous sketchbooks, art books and art retrospectives. Some of our books include:"Alex Toth: The Art of Zorro," "Michael Golden Monsters: Portfolio," "The Art of the Barbarian," "Nick Cardy: The Artist at War," "Michael Golden: Heroes and Villains," "Michael Golden: MORE Heroes and Villains," "Mark Texeira: Nightmares and Daydreams," "Kerry and the Scary Things," and "Joe Jusko: Savage Beauty." We have also produced several mini sketchbooks including "Steve Scott Sketches," and "Tex: Babes and Brawn."



We have numerous new books in the works including "Michael Golden: Dangerous Curves," "Joe Jusko: Maelstrom," and the art book "Nick Cardy: Wit-Lash--The Humor and Human Observances of Nick Cardy."

Via Little Eva Ink toys, we also produce figurines and action figures. Most notably the "Stick it to 'em" pincushions which were take offs on World War II novelties, updated for modern times.

So, as you can see, we are a one stop source for many projects if a client wants full service resources.

As for the name, "Eva" is my first name. It's also the name of my Grandmother, for whom I was named. I'm "Little Eva." Originally we went by Little Eva Ink. I still use the "Little" sometimes for various projects.

Rich: Who are a few of the people you represent and what are their talents?

Renee: Well I only work with the best! And we certainly do have that at Eva Ink Artist Group.

Michael Golden
is a renowned storyteller in the industry--co-creator of Bucky O'Hare, Spartan X, and Rogue from the X-Men, among others. His storytelling is considered groundbreaking in such books as "G.I. Joe," "Doctor Strange," "The 'Nam," etc. etc. Way too much to mention. He's also an incredible writer and cover artist, conceptual designer, you name it. Currently, he is the cover artist for "Spawn." Michael is one of the best designers and craftsman in the business as far as I'm concerned. Also great for ad work and product development, where the client wants the absolute best. We are currently concentrating on his intellectual properties for animation and film.




Mark Texeira
is a classically trained fine art painter, who has brought those skills to sequential art. One of the few that has this ability. I have always thought if born in a different time, Mark would have been one of the most sought after portrait artists around. As is, he is a wonderful artist to choose for portraiture if one is in the market. On top of that, he is known for his sequential art which is full of raw passion and energy, on such books as "Ghost Rider," "MoonKnight," "Wolverine," "Black Panther," record covers, ad work, and much more. Mark is often called upon to do the covers for those books as well, and it's always great to see comic book characters done in his fine art style.




Matt Triano
is an amazing talent who is great not only with sequentials, but covers, ad work, storyboards, etc. He has not failed to shine on any project he's done with me. I think one of his strong suits is his style which stands out as uniquely his own, bringing a nice consistency to the projects he works on. Currently he is working on projects with Zenescope as well as The Discovery Channel. His credits include work for Moonstone, DC Comics, and The Robin Hood Charity in New York as well.

Dennis Calero
is a amazing talent, and I've called on him to do storyboards, painting, and sequential art in the short time he's been with Eva Ink. He's great with likenesses for custom comics and media tie-ins. I so appreciate his professionalism and attention to deadlines and client needs, while producing top notch work. You can see some of his work on such books as "X-Men Noir," "Weapon X Noir," "JLA," "Darktower," Batman, Plastic Man, and much more.

I also of course, rep and book myself. I am a writer on top of being an editor and artist agent. I do read manuscripts, film scripts, comic scripts, etc., when hired as a consultant. I also package books via Eva Ink Publishing.

Recent books I've been hired to write include"The Fantastic Art," "Excess: The Art of Michael Golden," (Vanguard), "Tex: The Art of Mark Texeira" (Vanguard), "Dying for Action: The Life and Films of Jackie Chan" (Warner Books), and via Eva Ink "Nick Cardy: The Artist at War," "The Art of the Barbarian," and "Kerry and the Scary Things." Currently I am writing a fiction novel for one of my clients, as well as "Nick Cardy: Wit-Lash."

In addition, I also do booking for other artists such as Rodney Ramos, Liam Sharpe and Joe Jusko, and writer Ric Meyers.




Rich:
How did you make your start in the world of comics?

Renee: I like to joke that it started when I discovered some old Jerry Lewis and Spiderman comics and "Mad Magazines" in my brother's bedroom when I was 7 or so.

But in reality, it was one of these situations where one door opens and you decide if you will walk through it or not. That one decision can, and often does, decide the course of your whole life.

I became interested in Journalism while I was in Junior High School, when my brother Robbie took me to one of his High School Journalism parties, trying to recruit I suppose. I was already the editor of my Jr. High newspaper, and was already producing slide show documentaries-- most often relating to history.

The one I was most proud of in Jr. High was on World War II, documenting the whole conflict on slides, timed and accompanied by a cassette tape recording. The nice German lady who helped me with the voiceover recording had actually been a concentration camp survivor. I won an award for that.

But basically, what I'm trying to say is that I was interested in storytelling-- all forms of storytelling-- from an early age.

I was the kid that would sneak out of bed every night to watch the Midnight Movie (we only had three channels), while my parents were asleep. So that was my film education, and I saw everything. I think that my Dad thought it was funny. I'd often stay awake until the channel went off the air after the movie, by showing a huge picture of the American Flag and playing "The Star Spangled Banner." Dad was a postman--back when that was a wonderful job--and would wake up early at 4 am to go to work, turn off the TV and put me to bed.

So, starting off that way, being a shy kid, and somewhat overweight until I hit high school-- you tend to spend alot of time in your head using your imagination. Drawing as a kid, reading all the books in the library subject by subject, eventually finding an outlet for creativity in the Jr. High newspaper, continuing with editing my High School newspaper, then my college newspaper and art magazine... I think my path was laid to be involved in storytelling in one manner or another.



While I was in college at East Texas State University, some of my friends from Texarkana told me they were going to a convention in Dallas, Texas called the Dallas Fantasy Faire--- one of the premier shows of the time--and asked me if I wanted to go. So we loaded up the truck and drove to Big D. I had an amazing time talking to writers, artists and other creative types, and met friends at that show that have remained my friends until the present.

In fact, my first job out of college ended up being as the "Girl Friday" for the Dallas Fantasy Faire working with the owner, Larry Lankford. I think my official title was "Assistant Convention Coordinator" or something like that. But it entailed everything from making phone calls to acting as a guest liaison, to taking and developing photographs, writing press release and articles. Laying out the program books. You name it. Whatever needed to be done.



From that experience I met many people in the comic book industry and landed a job as an assistant editor at DC Comics on the Superman books with editor Mike Carlin. Carlin taught me a great deal about comics storytelling and putting together a comic book, and I'll always be grateful to him for that.

From there, I moved over to Marvel Comics for five years, starting out as the assistant editor for Craig Anderson on the Silver Surfer books. I was the editor on "Conan Saga" then too, and assistant editor for "Savage Sword of Conan." Soon, I became a full editor, and had my own line of books, including "She-Hulk," "What The?" "The Impossible Man Summer Special," "The Marvel Holiday Special," and numerous others.

When my friend ,and one of my mentors, Jim Salicrup, became the head at Topps Comics. I joined him there for 5 years, editing such books as "Xena," "Hercules," "Jurassic Park," "Jason Vs. Leatherface," and I can't remember how many other books. It was a fun time. And fortuitous since I left right before one of the Marvel head choppings. Many of my friends lost their jobs, including some fantastic editors. I was happy to be at Topps.

After this run of comic jobs, I worked exclusively in film for five years, on such movies as "Rush Hour II," "Red Dragon," "To Ease the Lose," and dozens of music videos for talents like Madonna, Seal, Usher, and of course too many commercials to count.

The funny thing about all my various jobs, be it working at a small newspaper, doing PR for a convention, editing comics or working in film, the attention to detail, and the eye for storytelling and graphics--the skill set required was the same. My skill set served me well at each of these jobs, I think. It's about adaptability, I suppose.



I've been an agent, in addition to everything else, since 2003, when an artist friend of mine asked me to start repping him because of my knowledge of comics (I was working exclusively in film production in LA at the time, so comics sort of "pulled me back in.") And again, I'm using all those same skills I used as a comics editor or a crew member.


Rich:
How did you find working as a Color Artist on such titles as Avengers, Spider-Man and Captain America?

Renee: I found it to be a necessity.

While I enjoyed my work in comics as an assistant editor, the pay was extremely low. An assistant at DC made around 17k a year. I moved to Marvel because I got a raise to 23K or something like that. Still, living alone in Manhattan has been expensive for decades now. To make ends meet, many of the assistant editors would take any freelance job they could. I wrote letter columns daily at $50. a pop. And colored numerous comic books. It was great fun to color back then.

We used Dr. Marteen's dyes and hand colored 8.5 x 11 copies of the pages. We then had to label every single color we put down on a page. For example a Caucasian skin tone was Y2R2B2. Each and every color had it's own code. These pages were then sent to the separator an magically somehow that all translated into a comic book.

Coloring rates were around $25. to $30. a page, sometimes more. I colored books for Jim Salicrup, Howard Mackie, Craig Anderson and most of the editors at that time. We'd also tend to get many rush jobs, so I'd be editing during the day and coloring all night long, until it was time to go to work again. You did what you had to do. Did I enjoy it? Sure. It was a high energy time, and full of great people.



Marie Javins and I had an office in the "Marvel Annex," which was really just 4 offices with no windows, on a separate floor for awhile. Nobody came down there. We called it "The Dungeon." I'd often color there after hours, accompanied by our pet Japanese Hooded Rat that we kept in the office.

Thinking back on that time, Marvel was like a real family back then. A great deal of esprit de corp. And a wonderful place to learn more about the craft of making comics. Mark Gruenwald was a big believer in investing time in the assistant editors and teaching us the necessary skills. Each week we had Assistant Editor school, which, with Mark, was always great fun as well.



Rich: What can you tell us about the "Creator Chronicles"?

Renee: The "Creator Chronicles" is a DVD series that I co-produced with Robin Dale of Woodcrest Productions. So far we've produced DVD's on George Perez, Bill Sienkiewcz, Michael Golden, Matt Wagner and Joe Jusko. The idea is to get candid interviews with influential artists and document our comics history. We also started adding tutorials to all the DVD's. Rob also helped me produce a shorter DVD on artist Nick Cardy to go with our "Nick Cardy: The Artist at War" book. The DVD was packaged with the book to make it multi-media. You read Nick's words and then you hear and see him talk about his life as well. I intend to do that with other books as well. Currently, Rob is finishing up a DVD on Joe Sinnott, due out soon. And we are planning a few other things, including another Cardy DVD to go with "Nick Cardy: Wit-Lash."



Rich: You worked as Editor on "Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos", what exactly does your job as editor mean?

Renee: I believe I was the assistant editor? I was the Assistant in Craig Anderson's office then, and he'd give me the line of books I'd be responsible for. My responsibilities on any comic or graphic novel were the same. Working with the writer, penciler, inker, letterer and colorist to keep the production of the book flowing so that the book not only comes out on deadline, but that it's the best possible book it can be.

(Craig was another great teacher in my life. And an excellent comic book editor. When Salicrup found out Craig needed an assistant and recommended me, I'll always be happy that Craig threw me the ball. Marvel during that time period was a very creative place and a great home, as said. New York was an adjustment for me having moved there straight from Texas, and Marvel was a great place to get used to the Big City. )

About being an editor-- what all these people taught me--being an editor requires you to think creativity if you are going to be good at it. Think on your feet. And I believe it's imperative to have a good artistic eye yourself. At any given time, I'd have 6-9 books a month or more to get out. Considering that you have 5-7 creatives on each of those titles, that's alot of working with various personalities and addressing various needs to keep things running smoothly.

As I mentioned, working in movies seemed to be the same thing to me, and not much different than being a comic book editor. Organization, organization, organization.




Rich:
You wrote "Kerry and the Scary Things" how did you end up coming up with the story idea for this book?

Renee: "Kerry and the Scary Things," is a children's book that I developed with my friend and talented artist Keith Wilson, many years ago. Probably over 2 decades ago. It had a long and winding road to being published-- i.e. picked up by two companies that then went out of business. And Keith and I got a little frustrated to see many of the ideas we had for the book, starting to be mirrored in other pop culture projects and movies. So, we felt we really needed to get out our book and introduce it to the world. This particular book is softcover, and is a preview of things to come.

Kerry, our hero, is a little boy who loves monsters. So, he puts together a monster fighting backpack in case he ever meets any, with all the things he'll need in order to fight them. In the course of the book, you'll see if he actually does meet any monsters, how he deals with them if he does, and what he has in his bag of tricks. It's really a story about kids using their imaginations.

I think we've lost a lot of that--kids have toys or video games that play "for them," and it's important to not forget to foster creativity.

There are several sequels planned. The next, which also was written many years ago is "Kerry and the Dreadful Dragon."

My intent is to pursue animation with these properties.



Rich: What are a few highlights from your career?

Renee: Oh Gosh! That's hard to say. I've worked on so many things I love. I feel I've been very lucky to live a life where I can work on projects, be creative and say one day, "Ya know, I'd like to write this book," or "I'd like to produce this toy," and then I find a way to make it so.

Every project I'm currently working on is my favorite project.

I'd have to say for me though that some of my favorite books have been "Dying for Action: The Life and Films of Jackie Chan," and our comic book series "Spartan X," inspired by Hong Kong movies, because these led to my meeting Jackie, and my long friendship with that amazing man.



I have also loved learning about the subjects of my art books-- Michael Golden, Mark Texeira, Nick Cardy, Jackie Chan....finding out what makes them do what they do, and how they do it. That is my journalistic background coming into play.

In my film work, I have enjoyed being a part of every movie I've worked on. It is this bizarre reality where you live, eat, sleep to make a movie for six months, and the people you are working with become your surrogate families for that unique time. When the movie wraps, you almost feel like you are going through some time of mourning or withdrawal. The first morning you don't have to get up at 4 am and go to work for 20 hours, you don't know what to do with yourself!

I was lucky enough to work with some fantastic crews, with directors like Brett Ratner, and AD's like Jamie Freitag-- a few bad ones too. When those productions end, you can't WAIT to get away. :-) You are almost ready to chew your arm off to do so! But lucky most production jobs are not that way.

Of all my movie experiences tough, I think I loved working with Jackie on "Rush Hour II" and Anthony Hopkins on "Red Dragon." You remember the ones who are class acts, and I knew Jackie long before I worked with him on that movie.



Rich: What does the future hold for you, what great things can we look forward to?

Renee: I'm waiting for the next door to open. And it will. More comics, more books, more movie work, more writing. Up soon, I'll be finishing the writing on "Nick Cardy: Wit-Lash," which focuses on Nick's humor and human observances. Fun book.

I have a few other books I can't announce yet, but I think they will be fantastic to bring to life. And a few more documentary projects.

Rich: You are involved in the film industry as well what is your contribution to film?

Renee: While an editor at Topps Comics, I worked on many media tie-ins, and I enjoyed dealing with film related properties. After the Topps comic's department folded, I enrolled in film school at NYU. Around the same time, I had a skiing accident in Canada that left me on crutches. I was hobbling trying to get up and down my third floor walk-up apartment in NYC and also get to rehab every day, and learn to use crutches. It was difficult.

One day, I got a call from a friend of Buster Keaton's widow, Eleanor, who said that she could see Buster's influence on Jackie Chan's films, and she'd love to meet him someday. It so happened that Jackie was making "Rush Hour" in LA at the time, so I called him and told him Buster's widow wanted to meet him. And the next thing you know, I was on a plane to Los Angeles, and headed to the movie set.

That itself was funny because Jackie sees me on crutches, asks me what happened and shook his head in that Jackie way and said "And they say what I DO is dangerous." LOL It was a funny moment. He also kept stealing my crutches for the camera to focus on when setting up shots. (That's so Jackie though. Any time I was ever on one of his Hong Kong movie sets, he was always throwing me into a scene as an extra. You can really see me in "Crime Story.")



So, to make a long story short, while on the movie set of "Rush Hour," I met Jerry Marshall, who was doing video playback, who in turn introduced me to John Marshall who had his own production company, and they pretty much said "Why go to school when you can learn on the job." So they hired me, and I did. For five straight years. During which time, I worked with some top notch producers and production managers like Helen Dow and Rebecca Morley--Gals I still love.

Rich: How did you become a fisher and where do you like to go fishing and for what kind of fish?

Renee: Again, how far back should I go? I've been fishing my whole life. My Dad was a big fisher and hunter. I'd go target shooting, but never really got into hunting, although I didn't mind eating the deer, squirrel and dove that he brought home. We had more game than beef in our house, even though we lived in Texas.

What I really loved doing was fishing with my Dad, and when I was young my brothers too, before they got married and moved out. Some of my fondest memories with my Dad are sitting in the bass boat out on Lake Texarkana.

Now I still fish. All over the place. Often times I carry a collapsible fishing pole in my suitcase when I travel, Just in case. You can even find good places to fish in cities, and I do. It's also my goal to fish in places around the world.

Last year I fished Costa Rica for Maccacha-- fish related to Piranhas, and Stripped Bass in Tennessee, and also went Snake Head fishing in Florida. These are great prehistoric looking fish, also with teeth. Basically, whatever comic show I'm invited to, I check out the fishing. After MegaCon this year, I'm going to the Miami area for fishing again.

I want to go fishing in Thailand and Spain for some of the giant catfish. Oh man... that would be incredible!!! We're gonna do it. Maybe next year. I can't imagine the thrill of bringing in a 200 pounder.

When I was a kid, we'd often have these huge family fish frys in our back yard on Sunday, with the whole family there. Dad would fry the fish and Mom would make hushpuppies and cole slaw and we'd have some of Maw Maw's chow chow with it.

Now I do catch and release. I mean, what am I going to do with a 36 pound stripped bass in my hotel room during a comic book convention, afterall.




Rich:
So just how good a salsa dancer are you, could you teach your readers a thing or two?

Renee:
Now, that would be bragging wouldn't it. :-)

I'm pretty good, I guess. It comes naturally to me. I'm told so. I was raised a Southern Baptist (they somewhat frown on dancing), and didn't really dance that much when I was growing up, although I did go to some of the school dances and was woefully unprepared.

And while I still believe what I believe, I never thought dancing was something to be avoided, and I added dancing to my life when I moved to NYC and am happy for the euphoria (and exercise) it brings. It's one of the joyous things we can do as humans.

I first started taking classes when I was an assistant editor at Marvel Comics at the urging of first Steve Saffel, then Jim Salicrup and Paul Becton and Ken Lopez, and some other Marvel cohorts joined the class too with our wonderful instructor, Tony. (Come to think of it, I first met Steve and Jim both through the Dallas Fantasy Faire-- see, that's what I mean-- one thing leads to another.)

I remember that I got my Mom to go to one of the classes when she was visiting me in Manhattan, and we got her to dance too! She loved it, even though it was probably her first time. I can still see Paul spinning her around the floor.

I followed this up with classes at Dance Manhattan. I don't really take classes any more. I learn on the dance floor, and when you have a good partner-- a good lead-- it's easy to pick up steps and learn "shines," and add to your repertoire. I love Salsa dancing. It has such a guttural energy. But I also go Cajun dancing, Swing, and Zydeco dancing in Manhattan as well. Occasionally Tango, although I'm rusty on that one. There are so many great places to go.

And I love to keep learning. I'm being told that I am going to have to take West Coast Swing classes too. It's on the list. I'm not a teacher, but I'd say, take classes if there's a place near you. You'll never regret it.

Start now. If you are a teenager of either sex, I'm telling you, if you learn to dance well, you will never have a shortage of dance partners at any event. Dancing adds to your cardiovascular health, your body tone, and your overall joy in life.

There's nothing like hearing a piece of music and knowing what to do with it.

Rich: How can someone contact you?

Renee:
I'm easy to find. Our website: www.evainkartistgroup.com

Also, my blog: http://witterstaetterwrites.blogspot.com/

On my blog I talk about a myriad of subjects including comics, fishing, recipes, you name it. :-) I also do restaurant reviews in NYC tagged as "Eating Manhattan."

And then there is our company page on Facebook under: Eva Ink Artist Group

Rich: Any words for all those who have been a part of your career life?

Renee: Thanks! Especially to the ones who produced good work, on time, and didn't dog editorial phone calls. I LOVE you.

And overall, thanks to every person,for the opportunity to learn from all my experiences both good and bad. I've walked away from every job, every comic, every movie, every book... with new knowledge of some sort, which always, in some regard, prepares you for the next door.



--
Richard Vasseur

2 comments:

  1. Oh, thanks Don. You too are a big part of my Marvel memories. Love ya. -R.

    ReplyDelete